ANNAPOLIS, Md. – An all-out Republican push to get out the vote in presidential battleground states could end up hurting the party's candidates — like Paul Goetzke (search) — who are running for local offices in Democratic states.
Goetzke, a first-time candidate, is running in a tight judicial race in Maryland's Anne Arundel County. But national GOP leaders want Maryland campaign workers to head to hotly contested Pennsylvania for President Bush in the final 72 hours before Election Day — potentially crimping Goetzke's own turnout operation.
"It just sounded funny to me that people would be recruited in Maryland to help influence the results in Pennsylvania," says Goetzke, who thinks rallying his ground troops won't be a problem even though campaign polls indicate that 58 percent of local voters remain undecided in his race.
"I was surprised," he said.
The race between Bush, a Republican, and Democrat John Kerry (search) may well be decided by a handful of tossup states. Accordingly, Republican and Democratic party officials alike are urging campaign workers from across the country to head to the battlegrounds to knock on doors and telephone voters in a last-ditch effort to win at the polls.
But a number of Republicans in states that are expected to vote for Kerry fear that abandoning their home turf will result in GOP losses in races farther down the ballot. Moreover, such a strategy represents a slap in the face to workers who say they are dedicated to trying to deliver for Bush — no matter how futile that effort may be.
The tension rose to a high pitch earlier this month at the Republican convention, when the national director of the GOP's 72-Hour Task Force urged Marylanders to head north for Election Day. Maryland is considered a "blue" state — meaning it is expected to throw its 10 electoral votes to Kerry on Nov. 2.
By comparison, Pennsylvania is one of the largest swing states in the country. Polls show Kerry and Bush are deadlocked in the state, which has 21 electoral votes.
"There is nothing more critically important," said director Phillip Stutts.
"If you're in Maryland, and you want to go to Pennsylvania and help for the last week of the election, we can get a group and send you up ... to help win that state for the president," Stutts said. "We'll pay for your hotel. We'll pay for travel. And we'll give you a per diem."
He was confronted afterward by Audrey Scott, of Bowie, Md., a top aide to GOP Gov. Bob Ehrlich.
"We have a tough time getting volunteers," Scott told Stutts.
"No, I know that," Stutts answered.
"So I don't know that we have volunteers to spare," she said.
Later, Scott told reporters: "We have a very, very well-organized team in Maryland. We intend to do a 72-hour push in Maryland, and it's going to work. And we're going to deliver."
Pennsylvania Republicans claim to have recruited more than 57,000 home-state volunteers to get out the vote on Election Day, said state GOP political director Josh Wilson. But help from out-of-state volunteers, particularly from communities along the Maryland and New York borders, could make the difference in the final hours of what he called the "knock-and-drag" voter turnout effort.
Plus, Wilson said, "it gins everybody up when you get out-of-staters to come in because you're such an important state."
Democrats, too, are relying on across-the-border help in swing states. A caravan of Kerry supporters from Indianapolis — the capital of a "red" state that almost certainly will vote for Bush — last month road-tripped to Dayton, Ohio, to help register voters in that crucial battleground state.
Democratic National Committee national field director Karen Hicks said droves of red-state Kerry supporters are volunteering to head for the battlegrounds.
"We're mostly taking advantage of the people who have indicated an interest in it," Hicks said. "And frankly, there's people who want to work on a presidential election when it would be a hard sell to get them to work on a down-ballot race."
But the local races are a top priority to people like Joe Mondello, GOP chair in Nassau County, N.Y. Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 million voters in New York, but Mondello isn't about to ship his volunteers out of state. He's worried about winning his local judicial races.
"If Kerry was allowed to run wild without any type of control, it could certainly affect the judicial candidates, and even further than that," said Mondello, a national GOP committeeman. "I'm going to pay attention to home base. Just because they paint states blue, red and something else, miracles happen. Things happen, right?"